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Were Western European Neandertals Able to Make Fire?

Abstract

Significant variability has been observed in the frequency of fire use over the course of the Late Pleistocene at several Middle Paleolithic sites in southwest France. In particular, Neandertals appear to have used fire more frequently during warm climatic periods and very infrequently during cold periods. After reviewing several lines of evidence and alternative explanations for this variability, the null hypothesis that these Neandertals were not able to make fire still stands.

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Acknowledgements

Chez Pinaud Jonzac was excavated by Jacques-Jaubert and Jean-Jacques Hublin with Marie Soressi and SPM. All are thanked for agreeing to share this portion of the lithic data from Jonzac. Abri Peyrony was excavated by Michel Lenoir and SPM. Tamara Dogandžić supervised the field work and studies the lithics with SPM. Again, all are thanked for agreeing to share this portion of the lithic data. SPM thanks the Max Planck Society and Jean-Jacques Hublin for support of this research. Aylar Abdolahzadeh was responsible for most of the collection of the Combe Grenal burned flint data, and we would like to thank Stéphane Madelaine of the Musée National de Préhistoire for arranging access to this material. Much of the data used here was the result of research projects that were possible through funding provided by the US National Science Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, Service Régional d’Archéologie, the Conseil Général de la Dordogne, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, National Geographic Society, the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Marie Curie International Fellowship within the 6th European Community Framework Program.

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Correspondence to Harold L. Dibble.

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Dibble, H.L., Sandgathe, D., Goldberg, P. et al. Were Western European Neandertals Able to Make Fire?. J Paleo Arch 1, 54–79 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-017-0002-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-017-0002-6

Keywords

  • Pyrotechnology
  • Paleolithic fire
  • Middle Paleolithic
  • Western European Neandertals